|Reid Fragel, 77, congratulates Carlos Hyde|
after scoring a touchdown Saturday. (AP)
COLUMBUS — Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller had another Heisman Trophy-like performance Saturday and tailback Carlos Hyde rode roughshod over the Illinois defense, as the Buckeyes (10-0, 6-0 Big Ten) rolled to a 52-22 victory to remain unbeaten and atop the Leaders Division.
In a week where Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer stated that the passing game must improve, Miller recorded 299 total yards and three touchdowns in a little more than three quarters of play, including 226 yards and two scores through the air.
Miller's passes were sharp, precise, NFL-like throws, and the sophomore looked incredibly confident in the pocket hitting receivers down field. He connected on touchdowns tosses of 51 and 37 yards to Rod Smith and Philly Brown, respectively, in the 30-point blowout.
Miller's all-around performance prompted former OSU Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Troy Smith to state that the new Buckeyes' signal caller "could be the best quarterback" the school has ever possessed.
"Those are strong statements," Meyer said of Smith's comments on Miller. "He's a sophomore in college, and we're still trying to figure it out, and he's trying to figure it out.
"But I love his effort and he played well."
Illinois head coach Tim Beckman may be in Smith's camp about Miller's abilities after being victimized by him Saturday.
"Braxton Miller is a fantastic football player," Beckman said. "He fuels this Ohio State team with his ability to make guys miss and that is how he hurt us today. He also made big plays with his arm and exposed some coverage issues in our secondary."
Of course, Miller wasn't the only Buckeye to wreak havoc on the visiting Illini defense — Hyde was just as dominating, rushing for 137 yards (7.6 avg.) and three touchdowns on the day.
The Buckeyes compiled 567 total yards, including 330 on the ground in the win.
Hyde attributed his stellar outing exclusively to the big guys up front.
"For me, it all has to do with my offensive line," Hyde said. "When those guys go, I go because when they do better, I can do my job better. And they did great today."
Meyer piled on Hyde's comments about the Buckeyes' offensive front.
"Are you kidding me?," Meyer said. "That offensive line, I keep talking about them. They ran for, I think, 330 yards. And just where they've come from. Think about it, it's almost overwhelming if you think where they were first week of spring practice to where they are now ...
"Those first five guys are really good guys."
As great as the Buckeyes' offense was in Saturday's win, their defensive effort was just as inspiring.
The Buckeyes held the Illini attack to just 170 total yards in the win, surrendering just 13 points for the contest — each total well under their season average coming into the game.
Sophomore linebacker Ryan Shazier once again led the effort, recording a game-high 14 tackles in the win, including two for losses. Cornerback Travis Howard picked off Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase in the win, while defensive linemen, senior John Simon and true freshman Adolphus Washington corralled the Illini signal caller with a sack each.
The dual-threat Scheelhaase was held to just 132 total yards in the loss, with no touchdowns and an interception.
Saturday was by far the Buckeyes best defensive performance of the season.
"The defense is getting better because of all of the criticism we have been receiving," Shazier said. "We are trying and succeeding, slowly but surely, at becoming a better football team."
The ever-improving Buckeyes will have a bye this Saturday, before heading to Wisconsin and then back home against Michigan to finish the season.